The Pittsburgh Penguins meet the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon in the first of three de facto playoff games against their hated rivals. They play in Pittsburgh on April 3, and are back in Philadelphia on April 9 for their season finale.
The Flyers sit four points in back of the Penguins, with a game in-hand. They’re one point in back of the Detroit Red Wings, with two games in-hand.
They’ll also get Jakub Voracek back on Saturday, or at least that’s where all signs were pointing. In his absence, Brayden Schenn has been exceptional on the top line with Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds, so the Flyers can now have a rather dangerous offensive player on their third line with Nick Cousins and Matt Read.
The Flyers were rather awesome without him, as he recovered from a foot injury.
“I think I have to buy them a beer when we make the playoffs,” Voracek said, via the DelCo Times. “We know what’s at stake. ... We have to play the way the boys have been playing.”
But now a new wrinkle for all three of those teams: The New York Islanders are in play.
The Islanders have 85 points with 13 games remaining. The Penguins, with a win or an overtime loss, would leapfrog over the Islanders in the No. 3 seed in the Metropolitan, ahead of the Islanders’ game at the Dallas Stars on Saturday night.
The Flyers, meanwhile, would close to within three points of the Islanders with a win over the Penguins. And oh hey would you look that that: They’re in Brooklyn on Monday to face the Islanders, and then close out their season in Brooklyn on April 10.
The Islanders are 5-3-2 in their last 10 games, but have lost four of their last five. Meanwhile the Penguins (7-3-0) and Flyers (8-1-1) tear up the standings behind them.
One of the Islanders’ issues lately? A stunning lack of power play opportunities, as they have six in their last five games and didn’t have one in a loss to the Predators on Thursday night.
We have to spend more time in the offensive zone,” Frans Nielsen told Newsday. “That’s usually where you get the calls. We have to make it hard on them. I think we just haven’t been hard enough to play against lately.”
Of course, an Islanders’ win and a Rangers’ loss in San Jose would put them one point in back of their rivals with two games in-hand, with one more crack at them on April 7.
Strap in, this is going to be an interesting ride in the East. And that’s not even mentioning the fact that the Tampa Bay Lightning are just four points up on the Detroit Red Wings and could still, in theory, be shuffled down to the wild card chaos.
Oh hi there game against Detroit on March 22 …
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